Photo by Mary Johnson
A pilgrim treks along the Camino de Santiago.
Photo by Mary Johnson
A pilgrim treks along the Camino de Santiago.
Since the Middle Ages, pilgrims have been following the Camino de Santiago in a quest of faith. Today, many of those who walk the Camino seek a physical challenge or an unusual sightseeing opportunity through the countryside of northern Spain.

Anyone who has walked all or part of the Camino, or who plans to do the pilgrimage in the future, is invited to receive a blessing at the third annual celebration of the Feast Day of St. James Mass at 5:30 p.m., Friday, July 25.

The Mass, which will be at St. Mary’s Cathedral, 1716 NW Davis St., is coordinated by the Portland Chapter of American Pilgrims.

Depending on their pace, pilgrims finish the 500-mile path of the Camino Francés, the most famous route, in as few as 20 days (trekking 25 miles a day) or as many as six weeks. 
For many, the experience, despite its physical challenges of blisters and exhaustion, is enlightening and spiritually nourishing.

Mary Johnson and Mary Davidson, both parishioners at St. Juan Diego Parish in Portland, recently returned from walking nearly 200 miles through Spain.

“I felt my faith was really strong when I left,” Johnson said. “But I discovered a heightened joy in my faith and peace in my heart. There was an exuberant feeling as you walk through the beauty that continually surrounds you…There are so few things in our lives that can bring that kind of joy.”

Every morning was another beautiful celebration, she said.

Davidson left for the pilgrimage with no expectations, only the intention to keep an open heart. She was moved by the camaraderie of the pilgrims and the beauty of the landscape, but it was in the silence that she truly connected with her faith.

Now back in Portland, Davidson has made conscious effort to practice the daily quietude she discovered on the walk.

More than 200,000 people went on the pilgrimage last year.

The Portland Chapter of American Pilgrims coordinates several regular opportunities for local pilgrims to gather, including third Sunday strolls through Portland and Vancouver area parks. The walks give pilgrims a chance to meet other pilgrims, try out new gear and get their Camino-related questions answered. To receive notifications about the monthly walk, send email to [email protected]

As part of the tradition, a wine tasting will be held following the July 25 Mass. Pilgrims who plan to participate may bring a bottle of wine to share. Pilgrims can also nibble slices of tarta de Santiago, literally “cake of St. James,” an almond cake with origins in Spain.

Those who wish to participate in the wine tasting should contact Robin Pigott at [email protected] by Monday, July 21.